guardians of the kitsch, voyeurs of hidden lives
What could Bob say?
He always knew this day would come.
A premonition would occasionally sweep over him, trimonthly, just as the feather duster would finally acknowledge his presence. Swiftly, a bittersweet acknowledgement — freed, momentarily, from that thin sickly layer of dust. She would come with her young, thin hands and place him on the top shelf, pushing him abruptly towards the back, just as he was warming up to the unfamiliar attention.
Was she not aware of his pedigree? Did she not know who he was?
She might be from Janet but she was certainly no Janet, he thought. A true connoisseur who would line up all her fine creatures on the middle shelf and delicately take them down weekly for a wash and wipe down.
She would host parties where she sold plastic containers in ice-cream colours to women with high hair and purple-hued eyelids. They would laugh and laugh. They would pet Bob and the crew, admiringly.
Now there was no longer a crew.
First, it was Doris — dear Doris, who he would cast forlorn glances at, her long neck epitomising elegance. Then it was Eeyore, his fellow melancholic friend in late-night contemplations, and then Thelo — the dim-witted attention-seeking mutt who, frankly speaking, Bob wasn’t too sad to see go. Shorty, Pickwick, Miss Bunny, the Ducks, Bunny Jnr., Cats — one by one, until he was the last one left in a room neglected.
They had watched as Janet shrivelled to a skeleton of her former self. The ‘Husband’ had left off with a younger woman who used to frequent Janet’s soirees, a stereotypical homage to a midlife crisis. The ‘Children’ were always there and then they were not, their absence creating a void of silence that engulfed the entire house. Janet received the news of the autoimmune disease claiming tenancy on the day she was retrenched — 18 September 2008 — as she cried on the couch that once hosted such scenes of joy, the crew watched on and cursed their porcelain paws for lacking the magic of movement. If only they could sit next to her and place their heads on her lap. If only they could move past adornment to consolation.
Janet was there and then she wasn’t.
The Daughter packed up the remnants of a mother she no longer knew that well. She hesitated on Bob, his downturned mouth recalling a memory of her mother making a joke about it actually being the ‘greater than’ sign. ‘He’s secretly a maths teacher’, her attempt at assuming the responsibility of Dad Jokes for a father that was long-gone. The Daughter sighed, Bob had stayed for too long. Besides, he didn’t fit into her and Michael’s vision of a modern home.
Huffing as she tippy-toed to fish him out from the back of the shelf, she was too exhausted to try and sell him for the peanuts she received for the others. Not worth the effort. She placed him in a cardboard box and left him outside the front gate.
Perhaps someone would want him.
It’s maneki-neko. 招き猫. Beckoning cats. Hailing from Setagaya ward, Tokyo.
Western cretins shouting arrogantly ‘oh! Chinese gold cat waving! oh so cute!’ foolish creatures with loud mouths and no brains. No luck to them. Still, we must beckon our left hand to welcome them as friends and our right hand to bring wealth. We must glimmer gold to bring abundance and laugh to summon happiness. We must give, give, give.
As if real cats would give. We watch Pantoffels below as he meows indignantly when his food is not served at 7am sharp and when he claws the sofa viciously and when he slaps the human for petting him a second too long. Pantoffels only knows how to take. We sit here, being called ‘asian cats’ as if the whole of Asia was one lump of homogeneous culture meanwhile the human knows the exact breeding of Pantoffel’s parents.
Our story long precedes that of the inbred fluff-ball. We originate from a remarkable lineage of lore and craftsmanship that dates back to a time when we were officiated by imperial decree as pest-control saviours. We were revered as helpers and our hunting skills seen as a contribution to businesses. We saved the daimyo Ii Naotaka from a deadly lightning bolt by ushering him into the Gotoku-ji temple at precisely the right moment. We saved an old woman in Imado from poverty by appearing to her in a dream and bestowing upon her the vision of producing and selling maneki-neko. We did all of this, and in the 1800s. So much for Pantoffels corporeal longevity of approximately thirteen years.
We were stolen from the first ramen (thriving, may we add) restaurant in Parktown by a hooligan white couple trying to prove their unremarkable infatuation to one another by this western thing called a ‘dare’. Now, we sit as a stolen relic in their unremarkable white son’s bachelor pad. As if this human of software engineer profession would even need a talisman of luck in the favoured age of information technology. He knows no struggle.
But alas, we will give, give, give. We will bring abundance.
The honeyed scent of gardenia drifted through the cool corridors of 10050 Cielo Drive as Doris was being deliberated over. B was taking digs at T about how the figurine was the personification of his mother, who had also coincidentally gifted it. 50s’ housewife hairstyle, upturned nose, that carping expression. Doris was a bummer to the radical vibes. B placed her current sarcastic jabs on the perilous state of Mercury retrograding in conjunction with her coming down from a drug-fuelled weekend of debauchery.
T hosted a groovy succession of ceremonies designed to clear the space of any bad juju as well as boast to the other silver-spooned Los Angeleno kids of just how fortunate they were. Yes, that celebrated french actress had personally designed its 19th-century European farmhouse charm. Yes, Carey Grant and Henry Fonda had inhabited its many rooms, infecting the air permanently with their performer aura. These ostentatious litterings were the norm of these parts and were squeezed in with proclamations of ‘finding nirvana’ and ‘being one with Mother Earth’.
T thrived in this sense of camaraderie cultivated since childhood, this constant need for validation from people whose parents also had and would long outshine them. B would tease T about this very privileged trauma of being born into the gold, as if the ensuing blessings of nepotism were so painful. She did agree however about his star of a mother being the definition of conservative ideological propaganda, both on the radio and on the silver screen. She footed the exorbitant rent though, so the kitsch Doris as a housewarming gift had to be somewhat respected and not broken into pieces and used in a stellar mosaic as Lunar Sky had suggested, in a stoned haze. Even M, with his rasputinian eyes and height of a garden elf, had remarked on how Doris had made him feel uncomfortable, watched even. His eyes would dart back and forth at Doris while he maniacally tried to convince T to record his subpar music.
It did seem as if Doris would glare at M particularly.
Or perhaps it was because M insisted on occupying the signature Aarnio Ball Chair that was so fortuitously placed, right in line with the upturned snout of Doris, as Dick, Lunar Sky’s one lover, had tried to reason with them. This hypothesis was ultimately rejected by the others.
The Santa Ana winds of ’68 were brewing with an interconnected retrograding of Saturn. There could be no logical explanation.
There was the wall dipped in rose quartz, the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2016, and the IKEA white frames with generic illustrations robbing Matisse of his Body Nude II ingenuity.
The Rotolights, the shag carpet, the bowl of inviting fruits — strawberries, bananas.
Miss Bunny had always wanted to be the star.
Originally conceived as a cheap decorative piece for children's’ bedrooms, she had rebelled, albeit silently, against this unfair fate. She liked being watched. There was something intoxicating about the sensation of strange eyes upon her. She was done with being a hand-me-down from sibling to sibling, innocent and child-like.
Landing in Tanith’s manicured hands was kismet.
Tanith of a magnetism that sent eyes fluttering. The lights would beam and the red recording light would exclaim in agreement. Tanith would sit centre frame while Miss Bunny would get the left and the flowering cactus, Schlumbergera, would get the right. The three of them synching in a minimalistic harmony. She would do all the work with her toys lined up neatly in front of her. Silicone props similar to Miss Bunny’s ears and Schlumbergera’s arms would be alternated with smoothly and lovingly. The two of them at the back just needed to be still and ‘aesthetically popping’; bodyguard back-up dancers of man-made and nature. Tanith’s moans would be the only soundtrack. Transitioning in speed and tone to the rhythm of her hands and fingers, Miss Bunny at first felt embarrassment redden her ears with each sound but now, now she enjoyed every element of the spectacle.
One seemingly normal day, Tanith giggled as a face on the screen whispered a command to her. She turned to look back at Miss Bunny, shrugged her shoulders and continued to giggle as she kitten-walked to grab her. Never before had Miss Bunny been invited to the centre stage. Tanith held her with both hands as she slowly kissed her, pausing before moving her tongue along each ear. Miss Bunny felt a deep plunge of pleasure as she watched the face reacting on the screen.
She was dancing between Tanith’s breasts and down her stomach, an unimaginable rollercoaster of human anatomical discovery she never dreamed possible.
Tanith bent over, face hidden, as she slid Miss Bunny inside her.
Her eyes locked with the face that twitched and distorted uncontrollably.
Now, she was truly the star of the show.
He would make them the purpose of his existence for he existed for work and that alone.
He never enjoyed the company of others’ and the stress that would creep in such social settings. Not to mention the time wasted as 9/10 of said interactions — always carrying a notebook detailing every deduction of encounter, he was inclined to make such factually-sound observations — were futile and non-productive. He would try steer the conversation in a way that could potentially suit both participants but inevitably he managed to offend someone somehow.
The ducks were a calming translucent cadet grey and their smoothness provided a relief as he kept them in his pockets, toying them between his long fingers when anxious, or employing them as conversation starters.
Cadet grey as a colour name originated in England in 1912, however there are some disputes against this ‘fact’ as it was used to describe the colour of the Confederate States Army uniforms which occurred in the first half of the 1860s . The word cadet (of French origin) denotes younger male as the younger sons were sent off to the French court as officers so that the older son could remain, safely, as head of the family and provide for them.
She is now looking over his shoulder, surveying the room.
He has lost her interest. Take it back to the ducks; the purpose of his existence. The melodramatic nature of this statement is ironically lost on someone as emotionally detached as him. He forgets to attach the crucial byline of him working within the psychology field and focusing on the more contemporary Duck Syndrome prevalent in students of higher-level education. Gliding, seemingly coping young 20 year olds actually buckling under the pressure of academic demands by prestigious institutions, subject to depression and anxiety.
The ducks — interestingly, they are extremely social creatures and are prone to depression if kept alone without a companion. Symbolically, particularly within dream analysis, they represent the need to connect to feelings and confront loneliness, but within the Celtic culture can indicate the need for immigration and transformation. Within Chinese symbology, the mandarin duck implies love due to their monogamous nature. However, this is not particular to ducks only, as their Anatidae relatives of geese and swans are also inclined to choose one life-partner.
He takes a quick pause to evaluate her reaction, she looks confused?
His personal favourite is the pop culture reference of the ducks ongoing appearance within The Sopranos (1999–2007) as a totem of Tony’s fear of losing both his blood family and that of his mafia famiglia. However, he once saw a heated debate on Reddit about the possibility of the migration of the ducks representing his penis attachment and fear as he loses his virility through age.
She now, undoubtedly, looks confused and insulted. She walks away.
He pulls out his notebook and documents another painful interaction.